Dusty Baker Remembers Ron Santo
“I’m hoping that indeed he’s in heaven smiling right now.”
Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker expressed those sentiments during a conference call this week about Ron Santo, the longtime Chicago Cubs third baseman who will posthumously be inducted in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon. Santo, elected to the Hall of Fame in Dec. 2010 by the Veterans Committee’s Golden Era committee, passed away in 2010 at the age of 70.
Though the two spent a few years playing in the National League at the same time – at the end of Santo’s career and the beginning of Baker’s – it was while Baker was skippering the Cubs for four seasons (2003-06) and Santo was a beloved broadcaster with the team that their friendship blossomed.
“I barely knew him as a player,” Baker said. “I know that he played hard, I know that he was a clutch man, and that he’d bite the ball if it meant getting an out, but I knew him better as an announcer. And then when I got to be with him everyday to do a show with him, I found out that he’s about a tough a guy as I’ve ever met but he’s also a kind-hearted, sensitive man at the same time.”
One of the first ballplayers to openly admit to playing with diabetes, Santo in later life underwent the amputation of both legs below the knees as a result of the disease.
“He never complained about anything and I know that he had to be in pain,” Baker said. “I know there were times he’d fall down and he wouldn’t even let you help him up. I was sad when on certain days he wouldn’t feel good and it would be a void in my life that day.
“My last year-and-a-half with the Cubs weren’t very pleasant but it was very pleasant to see him to start the day off. It also let me know that no matter what was happening and what I was going through that what it must have been like to be him… and never complain about anything.”
The relationship developed between Baker and Santo to where they would exchange turkey during the Christmas holiday.
“I have a great memory of him being very consistent in his personality and very positive toward the Cubs no matter what. He lived and died with the Cubs,” Baker said. “I really enjoyed my time with him.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum